How young people are making menstrual products more sustainable

“I used to have conversations about how to hide your tampon or pad in your sleeve or in your shorts or in your pants,” said Dr. Cara Natterson, who is a pediatrician; the author of American Girl’s bestseller “The Care and Keeping of You” series; and founder of Oomla, a gender- and size-neutral line of bras. “I don’t have that conversation anymore because kids say, ‘Why should I hide my tampon and pad?’ They are 100% right.”

Dr. Natterson’s 18-year-old daughter filled her in on new products on the market, some of which she discovered through Instagram influencers or #PeriodTok videos. “Teens are looking for conversations about people’s experiences, not five-star Amazon reviews,” she said. Dr Natterson recently considered using cloth pads again after a failed experiment years ago at the request of his teenage daughter. “They weren’t working super well when they were first invented and iterated on,” she said. “My daughter said, ‘You have to try them again. “”

Environmental sustainability and menstruation may be having a moment, but it’s not the first time, said Lara Freidenfelds, health, reproductive and parenting historian and author of “The Modern Period: Menstruation in Twentieth-Century America”. Homemade menstrual cloths were the norm in the early 20th century, until Kotex became the first successful mass-marketed pad in 1921. Modernity meant disposable and the brand was ambitious, she said. .

The first serious discussions about the durability of menstrual care began in the 1970s, when people were experimenting with cloth pads and sponges. “There have always been young people who were idealistic and thought about these things, but didn’t find the available products practical,” she said. Durability has always been sacrificed for convenience, she added.

Today, Gen Z parents are benefiting from improvements in menstrual technology: the cloth pads of yesteryear are no longer the cloth pads of today; and period underwear, for example, is made of highly absorbent fabric without being bulky. New menstruators often turn to a parent for products and advice – now parents can hand over more than a disposable pad or tampon, which could redirect some of the more than 15 billion disposable products that end up every year in landfills in the United States.

“The world we’re going to have when these progressive Gen Zs become parents 20 years from now — it’s going to be fascinating,” said Nadya Okamoto, former executive director of Period Inc. and co-founder of sustainable menstrual product brand August.

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